Not just stations, Mumbai airport too is crowded

  • Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 17, 2016 00:01 IST

The space crunch at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) — one of the most crowded in the world in terms of terminal space and airfield capacity for passengers – has become worse in the past two years, according to Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) data.

The number of passengers packed into an acre at the city airport saw a 57% rise to 34,148 in 2015-16 from 21,743 in 2013-14, shows the data. None of the other major Indian and international airports come close to this degree of crowding. For instance, passengers per acre (ppa) at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport rose to 8,980 from 6,777 (33%) in the same period.

Other big airports in the country are spacious compared to Mumbai. The ppa at Hyderabad airport in 2015-16 is 2,197, while the figure is 4,528 at Bengaluru. The ppa is lower at international destinations such as Bangkok (5,238) and Dallas Fort Worth airport (3,566) in comparison to Mumbai.

“The city airport desperately needs the encroached land to enhance its choked air-side capacity. A strong political will is required to evict and resettle encroachers,” said Amber Dubey, head of aerospace and defence with consultancy major KPMG.

Last November, aviation think tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) compared Mumbai’s air traffic planning structure with Istanbul and Dubai. The comparison showed in 2014, the Istanbul Ataturk airport handled 56 million fliers, but the airport has already made an investment of US$8 billion for a bigger airport with six runways, four terminals and a capacity to handle 150 million passengers a year. Similarly, the Dubai airport, which saw 70 million air passengers in 2014, is being prepared to accommodate 100 million passengers by 2020. The city, with a population of more than 2 million, has started building its second airport at the Dubai Central World, with an estimated capacity for 260 million passengers, the CAPA report said.

In comparison, Mumbai is projected to hit saturation by 2018 and the Navi Mumbai airport, with a projected capacity of 60 million a year, is unlikely to be ready till 2020, the report said. It added even if the second airport is ready in the next five years, by 2035 Mumbai would need a third airport. “I think we are underestimating the impact of CSIA’s capacity saturation on Maharashtra’s and national economy,” Kapil Kaul, chief executive officer, CAPA (India).

With CSIA being promoted as ‘catchment area’ for traffic from 28 Indian cities, the congestion at the airport is only likely to get worse. “Some international airlines have been sceptical about starting services to Mumbai owing to space constraints. But it’s strategic location attracts people,” said an industry observer. According to MIAL’s data, the transit traffic is estimated to touch 4.4 million this year from 1.8 million in 2011.

A recent land study of the city airport revealed of the total airport land spanning 2,006.86 acres, 1,399.52 acres is used. The ‘unusable’ space comprises slums spanning 308.96 acres, while 209.46 acres is on long-term lease and 46.41 acres of land is under litigation, among other challenges such as land owned by the ministry of defence and the Airports Authority of India.

“CSIA is a busy airport with heavy traffic inflow and outflow. There are challenges like congestion and slowing of operations, which are accelerated owing to paucity of land. This issue needs to be addressed by the government and authorities concerned on an urgent basis,” said Ankur Bhatia, executive director, Bird Group, an aviation think tank. He added the changes would bring operational efficiency, and reduce operational costs and congestion.

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